Episode 12: DISCOMFITURE OF THE QURAYSHITE EMISSARIES
“Truly, this and what Jesus brought are traditions from the same Heavenly light”, said Negus. Then turning to the envoys of the Quraysh he continued, “You may go. By God, I shall never give them up to you.” Now, the shrewd poet ‘Amr Ibn al?‘As hurled his last shot and what a deadly tirade at that for he said, “O King, they assert a dreadful thing about Jesus which is even unwholesome to repeat before thee.”
Negus demanded from J’afar , “What do you say about Jesus?”
J’afar Ibn Abi Talib replied, “We say about which our Prophet peace be and blessings upon him has taught us. He was a creature of God and His Prophet peace be and blessings upon him, as well as His Spirit and His Word, which was cast unto the blessed Virgin Maryam.”
Negus took a straw from the ground and said, “By God, Jesus, son of Mary, does not exceed what you have said by the length of this straw.”
Negus treated the Muslims with honor and pledged his protection to them. Both crestfallen envoys of the Quraysh had to leave Abyssinia in great shame while the Muslims lived there in peace and security. (Ibn Hisham, pp. 334?38)
Umar Embraces Islam
Islam was then further strengthened by the conversion of ‘Umar to the truth as brought about by the Prophet of God peace be and blessings upon him. ‘Umar was one of the nobles of the Quraysh, broadshouldered, tall and brave. He was feared and respected by all. How the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him wished that he should accept Islam, as he often prayed to God for showing him the right path. Fatima bint al?Khattab, the sister of ‘Umar, accepted Islam and shortly thereafter, her husband Sa’id Ibn Zayd followed suit. But both kept it a closely guarded secret since they feared the violent inclination of ‘Umar’s nature. They knew that ‘Umar was a zealous adherent of his forefathers’ religion and carried a bitter aversion to the new faith in his bosom. Khabbab Ibn Aratt secretly taught the Qur’an to Fatima bint al?Khattab after her conversion. ‘Umar planned to murder the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him. One day he sallied forth, with a sword hanging from his neck to find out the house near as?Safa where the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him and his companions were reported to have assembled. Nu’aym Ibn ‘Abdullah, who belonged to ‘Umar’s tribe of Bani ‘Adiy and who had already acknowledged faith in the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him, happened to see ‘Umar along the way armed and fiercely agitated. He asked, “Umar, where are you going?”
“I seek for Muhammed,” was ‘Umar’s reply, “And I will slay him; he has forsaken our religion, shattered the unity of the Quraysh; ridiculed them and vilified their gods. Today I will settle the matter once and for all.”
“Anger has blinded you,” retorted Nu’aym, “Would it not be better to set your own family in order?”
‘Umar was taken aback. He asked, “And who are they in my family?”
Nu’aym replied, “Your brother?in?law and cousin Sa?id Ibn Zayd and your sister Fatima. They have given faith to Muhammed and accepted his religion. Better deal with them first.”
‘Umar immediately hurried on to the house of his sister. Khabbab was at that time reading the Soorah Ta Ha (20th Chapter of the Qur’an) to the couple from a manuscript he had with him. When they caught the footsteps of ‘Umar, Khabbab hid himself inside a small room whereas Fatima instantly concealed the manuscript beneath her thigh. But as ‘Umar had already heard Khabbab reciting the scripture, he demanded on entering the house, “What was this nonsense murmur that I heard?’
“Nothing”, both answered, but “What have you heard?”
“Yes, I accidentally discovered,” continued ‘Umar angrily. “I know that both of you have joined the sect of Muhammed.” With these words, ‘Umar threw himself upon his brother?in?law. Fatima rushed in to save her husband, but ‘Umar struck her hard and wounded her. All this happened abruptly, but now, both husband and wife boldly and openly asserted: “Yes, we are Muslims; we believed in Allah and His Prophet peace be and blessings upon him; do whatever you will.”
‘Umar saw the blood flowing from the wound he had inflicted on his sister; his anger gave in to shame coupled with admiration for his sister?s courage. Cooled down, he asked for the manuscript that he had heard Khabbab reading. He said “Show me the manuscript. I want to know what Muhammed has brought.” In reality, ‘Umar knew the art of reading and writing.
Fatima, however, replied, “I fear what you might do with it.”
“Umar promised, with solemn assurance, not to destroy it. Fatima, too, thought that he might change his views after reading the scripture. She said to him politely but firmly, “My brother, you are unclean because of your polytheism, and only the pure can touch it.” ‘Umar rose and took a bath. His sister then gave him the pages on which Soorah Ta Ha was written. He had read only a few lines when he exclaimed in amazement,
“How noble and sublime is this speech!”
Thereupon Khabbab came out of his concealment and said, “O ‘Umar, by God, I hope that Allah would bless you with His Prophet?s peace be and blessings upon him call; for I heard him just last night imploring earnestly; ?O Allah, strengthen Islam by Abul Hakam (Abu Jahl) or ‘Umar Ibn al?Khattab. Now, ‘Umar have some fear of God.”
‘Umar asked Khabbab to lead him to the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him so that he might accept Islam. On being told by Khabbab that the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him was in a house at as?Safa with his companions, ‘Umar immediately took his sword and headed for him. When ‘Umar knocked at the door, one of the companions got up through a chink in the door to be sure of the person. Seeing ‘Umar with his sword on, he hurried back, appalled, to report, “Prophet of Allah! ‘Umar Ibn al?Khattab is here armed with his sword.”
Hamza intervened to say, “Let him in. If he comes with a peaceful intent, then it is alright, but if not, therewith we will kill him with his own sword.” The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him ordered the companion to open the door for ‘Umar to enter and thus join them. As ‘Umar entered through the door, the Prophet (peace be and blessings upon him) went forth to meet him in the room. He seized his cloak and pulling it rather firmly, said to him, “What for have you come, O son of Khattab? By God, I see that some calamity is to befall you before you have the final summons.”
But ‘Umar replied submissively, “O Messenger of Allah! I have come to attest my faith in Allah and His Prophet and what he has brought from God.”
The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him raised the cry of Allah?O?Akbar so loudly that all the companions present in the house came to know that ‘Umar had just accepted Islam (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 342?46).
‘Umar’s conversion was a turning point in the fortunes of Islam as it made Muslims feel all the more confident and strengthened. Hamza had already accepted Islam beforehand, and now with ‘Umar’s conversion, the Muslims knew that it was likely to send the Quraysh in jitters. They were particularly embittered on learning of ‘Umar’s conversion. The Muslims were thus right in their reckoning for none of those who had embraced Islam in the past made such a stir nor created such a tense excitement and impact as did that of ‘Umar’s.
‘Umar proclaimed his faith publicly. As soon as the Quraysh came know about, they drew the sword against him but found the same person prepared to take the course. Ultimately, with his inherent might, the people who valued their lives did not dare put up a clash with ‘Umar but decided rather to keep their hands off him. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 349).